Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Men Only: If You Could Buy Anything: What Would It Be?

In journalism, a reporter is given an assignment by her editors, i.e. bosses, predicated on a preconceived expectation of the answers the journalist will receive and in consequence write a story that already has the preordained editorial slant the powers that be at the publication anticipated.

In fact, we learn through guidance, mentoring, a wink and a nudge how to repose the same questions over and over until we get the answers we want and need to keep the story on message when we set out to write above mentioned completely unbiased article.

Sometimes, no matter how clever one is at reconstructing a query, the formula doesn't work. At that point, the story changes, it takes on texture, depth and a human angle no one was anticipating. That's the moment, despite the generally rotten pay, one is glad to have chosen this metier.

Here then are the surprise results of what happened when I posed the same questions to French men as I did to French women last week:

1.) If you could have anything you wish -- money is no object, this is a GAME, what would it be?

2.) And, same rules apply, what garment or accessory do you long to own?

Most of the men approached the choices from a completely different mindset, thus making this one of the most interesting interviews I've done since this blog debuted one year ago.

Cedric:  "Bonheur."  

"No," I said gently, "no one can buy happiness." 

"Well, it's all I want. What can I say?" 

"I don't know -- there must be something. . ." I pleaded.

"In that case," he said, "I guess I would like my own island where I could build the house of my dreams. It would be big enough to invite a few friends from time to time, but mostly I would go alone."

"And what about clothes?" 

 "I don't care about clothes, I don't need anything."

Alexandre: "If I could have/do anything I would like to write, direct, compose and play the music for a film. It would be about love and why for some it is so complex and impossible and for others so evident and natural."

And clothes? "I don't know, maybe a couple more Pringle cashmere V-neck sweaters in my drawer. It's comforting to know they're always there -- only in navy or gray -- but I don't need or desire any clothes really."

Louis: "I would like a collection of beautiful fauve paintings -- Derain, Braque, Van Dongen, Dufy." (Paintings above: Kees Van Dongen and Andre Derain.)

"As for clothes, my wife buys most everything for me. I think she does an excellent job so I would continue to leave it to her."

Jack: (I thought his name was "Jacques" until he corrected me. He explained his father was so moved by the bravery of the Allies during the war he decided to spell his son's name "the Anglo-Saxon" way.)

"I have pretty much everything I want or need."

 After several minutes of contemplation, he said: "If I could have absolutely anything, I think I would want to 'buy' experiences. I would take my wife and travel around the world for one year. In every major city we would stay in a legendary five star hotel to make the memories have a present and past feeling to them."

Clothes? "A few pairs of J.M. Weston shoes -- they're the only ones that fit me well and if you insist, I would find a meticulous Italian tailor and have him make a new wardrobe for the trip."

Daniel: "I desire absolutely nothing more than I have." (Of course at this point, I stay on message and start to insist, "surely there's SOMETHING.) He pauses. "All I can say to you is if I could have all the money in the world to do whatever I like I would do whatever would make my wife and family happy. You see, I am a very happy man."

Clothes? "I can buy whatever I desire now and I can't think of anything I want."

Patrick: "Amour."  

Oh, 0h, I'm thinking. "No, mon cher, you can't buy love anymore than one can buy happiness; you have to give me, I'm sorry to say, a material answer."

"In that case," he said with a sigh, "I would buy a huge property somewhere in the middle of France, build a house, have all sorts of animals and live there by myself. I would always hope someone I love and who truly loved me would come along to share it with me."

Clothes? "A beautiful navy blue cashmere coat from Charvet for the rare occasions I might go into Paris."

Raphael: "Nothing." 

Now I'm convinced this exercise is veering completely off track. I try again: "O.K. you are rich beyond imagination, you can have anything, absolutely anything your heart desires; what would it be."

He's looking at me like I'm crazy. "I am rich and I can buy anything I want and I already have everything I could ever desire," he said with just the slightest hint of exasperation in his tone.

 "Surely that can't be completely true," I gently insist one more time (I've been well trained in technique).

Finally he relented. "Alright, I would buy one of those magnificent chateaux in the Loire, do whatever renovations necessary, live in it with my family and make certain that it remains not in my family, but part of the patrimoine of France."

"Merci," I say meekly.

Clothes? "As I said, I am rich and I can certainly buy anything I want in that category so therefore I have everything I want."

And now you see why this was such a touching, unexpected, lovely experience for me, and I hope for you.


Kristen said...

Wow. I think I like Frenchmen. (After yesterday's post, I have most certainly gone off Sean Connery for life, though Michael Caine has risen another several notches in my personal hierarchy of celebrity.) I can't help but wonder, with some trepidation, how American men would answer these questions -- even though I am happily partnered with a wonderful American man, after almost 20 years of unsuccessful relationships with men from other countries!

Deja Pseu said...

I was very amused by your introduction to this post. I've aslways suspected as much about some of those interview/survey type articles, especially in "women's" magazines (e.g. Models - They Really DO Eat Pasta!) but I'm glad your interviews here went in such fascinating directions.

I'm guessing mon mari would probably opt for collecting art, doing some five-star travel, and maybe one pair of Bally shoes. I'll have to ask him.

Jeanne-Aelia said...

It's funny how obvious it is to me what kind of French men you asked.(It's so easy to tell French men a mile away, dont' you think?) Very French in that they all seem to want "de la pierre" (houses and property), and a certain kind of French men in there wish for cashmere sweaters and Weston shoes... bravo for their mentioning wanting their wives in their dream life...I like the men you know.

Marsi said...

How fascinating. Much food for thought here today.

This is a touching, interesting expression:

"It would be about love and why for some it is so complex and impossible and for others so evident and natural."

Bonjour Madame said...

This is fascinating and a high compliment to the men you spoke to. To be content is to be rich. That is why the initially don't even think of wanting more. My husband is this way most of the time. He doesn't even contemplate wanting more than he has. *does not compute*

BigLittleWolf said...

This is utterly extraordinary. Were you to pose these same questions to American men, I venture to say you would quickly get material answers, and a request for more than one thing in each category.

Or have I grown cynical about American men?

And might this explain why my happiest experiences in the past 8 years of being single have been with French men who believe in the importance of their values, their culture, and their patrimoine?

Now - I will say - I love love love Alexandre's idea for a film. And should Louis be fortunate enough to pluck Fauve paintings out of an auction house, perhaps he might allow a tiny visitor in great shoes to peek?

Perhaps loveliest of all - if these men are part of your world - their clear devotion to family, and an intriguing mix with a desire to have time alone. A place to go to. Perhaps the French version of Virginia Woolf's "a room of one's own."

Lily Lemontree said...

Great post, what fascinating answers! It's nice to see that there are people out there in the world that are quite content with what they have and not always striving for more, more and more. Contentment in the present alludes so many people, it's quite a shame.

Lorrie said...

Fascinating answers. I was touched by the replies that had to do with love, companionship and making a wife and/or family happy. Also, their contentment with life (mostly) as they live it now is refreshing.


Jacqueline said...

Oh my goodness, Tish...these men are perfect specimens....they all seem to have everything that they want and need not a thing.....which leaves their wives/girlfriends to have their share !!!! No, seriously, they sound like lovely, unselfish men. I think that I like them all. XXXX

Beadboard UpCountry said...

Hi Tish!
You are proving me with little mental escapes this Holiday season....Definitely needed...I think we whould get together and have all those guys over for an apperitif!!!!!

Dedene said...

I'm not surprised that your French friends are non-materialistic and want things money can't buy.
Most of the French (men or women) that I've met are that way.

Great post!

Anoninoz said...

Wow! It seems that all 'your' French men are extremely happy and contented souls! That is so lovely!

BigLittleWolf said...

Chere Tish:

The delightful TEN are at my site,
Gleaming, sparkling, ultra-bright,
Waiting for you there to see
So you know so more of me.

Je dirai que tout est vrai
Et le GRAND, pour deviner
Puisque c'est un "grand" français -
Avec qui j'ai xxxxxxxxxx jamais !

GRAND Petit Loup

Shelley said...

One gets a bit of insight into why French woman work so hard to attract and keep a French man.

You move in exalted circles, I'm thinking. Would a working class French man answer similarly?

You have loads of fun stuff on your blog, Tish, but I'm thinking this is one of your best posts. Well done!

knitpurl said...

It's all been said above. How lucky you are to be living in France with a Frenchman. However, I know a few American men who would want property too, but in western mountain areas to share with wife and loved ones. xo

prashant said...

I have most certainly gone off Sean Connery for life, though Michael Caine has risen another several notches in my personal hierarchy of celebrity.

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